The Two Sides of the Halo
How can we overcome the Halo Effect and shift from fear and anger to empowered love in a #MeToo world? Well, first you have to know what the Halo Effect is! To explain it, I’ll tell you a story…
On my 21st birthday, I told my favorite cousin that my father had sexually abused me. Her response? “No, he didn’t! He couldn’t have! He’s such a good person.” Later that evening, in the car on the way to grandma’s, my mother raged at me for accusing my father of abuse. How dare I? What a terrible thing to say about my own father!
Sitting in the back of the car, I came to a decision: If my cousin says he couldn’t have done it, and my mother says he couldn’t have done it … then he couldn’t have done it. Later, at grandma’s dinner table, we thanked God that I had come to my senses. And so, out of fear and helplessness, I placed on my father the white side of the halo – the side worn by angels and good men who can do no wrong.
Years later, immersed in therapy, I became enraged at my father. I imagined destroying him. I wrote letters to the family threatening to take them to court for the abuse. When I thought of my father, I saw a monster. I took the white side of the halo off him and replaced it with the red – the side worn by demons who can do nothing right.
These are the two sides of the halo: the white and the red. The white side keeps us in fear, disempowered, victimized. We repress our anger, blame ourselves, search for excuses to maintain the purity of our perpetrators. This is the halo that we are most familiar with: The side that blames the victim for daring to accuse good and powerful men of crimes; the side worn by society’s supposed angels, whether they deserve it or not.
But the red side – the side of righteous anger, the side that paints our perpetrators as monsters worthy of the worst torments – is also a trap. It locks us into rage, unable to let go and move forward because we are constantly looking backwards – and it locks the perpetrators into a cage of judgment that they can never escape.
One side of the halo creates angels; the other creates demons; and neither side allows for humanity. But how do we shift out of black-and-white fear or anger? Consider what you get when you combine white and red: Pink! – the color of empathy and empowered love.
Big On the Inside
These responses are perfectly understandable, and even justified. But the white and red sides of the halo are the simplistic reactions of a child – of our inner child. Adults live in the Pink Zone. So, to enter the Pink Zone: Check in with your inner child and find out what she needs. Don’t forbid the fear or anger – acknowledge it, allow it, and comfort your inner child who is in its throes.
Our inner child thinks that she has to manage her own feelings: to do something, to resolve something, to run the show. But when we comfort our child, she can relax and let go, knowing that our adult self will run the show and will keep her safe. We become Big on the inside.
Big On the Outside
Once we’ve acknowledged and comforted our inner child, we can face the world as an adult. We regain our voice and our choice. We can be Big on the outside.
From the Pink Zone, we can choose wisely: To post our experience on Facebook, to confront our perpetrator, to share our story … or not. And we make this choice not as a reaction to fear or rage, but as an empowered response from empathy – for ourselves, and for the complex, flawed, troubled human that is our perpetrator. In the Pink Zone, we can still feel anger and fear – but we choose how we use it.
In the Pink Zone
Recently I received a text from my perpetrator – my father. Immediately, my little girl woke up, and fear and anger flooded my body. How dare he text me, after years of disconnection, and try to enter my life again?
Then I remembered: Humanity, my father included, lives in the Pink Zone, between the two sides of the halo. I held my inner child, comforted her, and took responsibility as an adult. And from the Pink Zone, I wished my father well: to heal and to find peace. He is certainly no angel, but he is also not a monster. He is just my father.